With a bully in the White House and bullies fresh on my mind after having watched the surprisingly deep Cobra Kai, why not revisit some of my previous antagonistes?
We all have them — the people who make our lives miserable when we’re at our most vulnerable, who delight in mentally torturing you even more than assaulting. No one deserves them…yet they persist, because to prey on the weak is an eternal human trait.
Most of us understandably block bullies from our memories. But it’s good to look back and marvel at your resilience toward them — you’re here today, after all.
Which means you beat them.
So, lemme watch over my back as I begin to type…
Kindergarten-4th grade: Cannot remember them. They didn’t like that I read a lot, that teachers liked me, and that I was scrawny and began to wear glasses at a time where they were a marker of death for boys.
In those years, though, I had a guardian angel in Eddie Vallejo, a rotund Chicano my age who slammed more than a few bullies against chainlink fences and told them to knock it off. I owe him a Jameson or something; back then, I thanked him by doing his homework.
Fourth grade: My luck with big Chicanos ended. ***** constantly shoved me and pushed me and yelled at me but never quite got around to beating me up for reasons I never knew. He was a friend of my new friends, so that was kind of awkward. First kid I ever knew to say “fuck,” in a joke about the DEVIL. Really bad seed. Moved to Houston.
Then there was ****** down the street. We both liked the same girl. He was handsome; I was not. Taunted me incessantly. No Daniel-san luck for me!
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Sixth grade: ***** was a year below me but such a horror that he once threw a table — a table! — at a teacher. We never really got into it at Sunkist Elementary, mostly because I steered clear from him as much as possible. Which was kinda hard, because his class was next to mine.
Junior high: Hell years.
**** regularly shook me down for my lunch money, forced me to hold tagging material for him and even tried to get me to steal my dad’s gun. I can’t even remember how I got out of THAT — but I did. He nded up in and out of jail.
Yet he wasn’t my worst harasser.
******* took an intense dislike of me that actually lasted through high school and even a couple of years into college. He was best friends with my sixth-grade tormentor — OF COURSE. I could not escape him even away from school, because he was from the same rancho as me. He ended up a loving dad.
Yet he wasn’t my most painful harasser.
That would’ve been *****, who was one of my best friends because we were from the same rancho. I distinctly remember him telling me before we started Sycamore Junior High that he was going to stop hanging out with some guy because he was a bad influence.
Like Hawk to Demetri in Cobra Kai, ***** began to mock me to score points with his friends. He ended up becoming one of the cool kids at Anaheim High, while I remained the nerd that I am. He ended up in law enforcement.
OC Weekly: Well, ya gotta read my book for that one. The one thing I’ll say right now is that jealousy is an ugly thing that can make nice people do stupid things.
Then there was ******. Won’t talk about that, but let’s just say bullying cost that dumpster meanie mucho moolah.
2018: I owe them a full canto — and let’s leave it at THAT.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Why do Cuban Americans make the nicest Docs? Here in Boulder, CO, we have the priciest little shops in Colorado, except for Aspen and Vail of course… One of them was a Sports Optical and the ophthalmologist was Cuban American and the nicest one too. But he retired and they haven’t replaced him yet.
This might be the most random question I’ll ever receive, but you’re RIGHT. In addition to Dr. Alex at Orange Circle Optometry (LOVE my Moscot lenses!), my childhood doctor was Dr. Soledad, and my mom just loved her because she was a Spanish-speaker in the medical profession at a time where there weren’t that many in Anaheim. I remember her as kind and funny.
Dr. Soledad and Dr. Alex are different generations of the Cuban diaspora — she would’ve been a refugee, while he’s probably probably third-gen at this point. Without knowing their personal history, I can only speculate about their coolness — a lot of mojo in their diet? A shot of rum after every shift? Overloading on the Porto’s?
Or maybe their understanding that life is precious and kindness is important because of what their parents and grandparents left behind?
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Current citrus harvest from my backyard. To learn the names and flavor profiles of each, follow me on Instagram already!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer.”
–Richard Strauss. RICHARD STRAUSS!!!
LISTENING:“Just an Orange County Mijx, Vol II: Baile Sorpresa,” DJ Yellow Black Bird. I think so highly of this santanera that she co-DJed my wedding along with New Wave legend Richard Blade and matched him mix to mix! Dig her latest drop, which is all about the SLOW JAMZ OLD SKOOL.
READING: “Reading Camus in Time of Plague and Polarization.” A beautiful, thorough summation of the French existentialist, from his humanism to his Algerian blind spot and so much more.
SHOUTOUT TO: Diane, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! I asked her if she wanted a plug, but she didn’t respond — maybe she will now!
Gustavo in the News
“Latinx Files: Will there ever be a ‘Decade of the Latinx’?”: My colleague Fidel Martinez plugs a previous columna of mine in his indispensable newsletter that you should subscribe to.
“Coronavirus Today: L.A.’s testing positives — and negatives”: My colleague Amina Khan plugs a previous columna of mine in his indispensable newsletter that you should subscribe to.
“Maybe resolve to eat more takeout this January?”: My colleague Bill Addison plugs a previous columna of mine in his indispensable newsletter that you should subscribe to.
“Los Angeles and COVID”: A conservative website plugs a previous columna of mine.
“In OC, safety mandates are still not fully enforced, as hospitals set up extra tents for COVID surge” My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about OC’s current coronavirus disaster.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. 29”: My latest IG Live free-for-all — join me every Tuesday at 10:15 PM PT to see it LIVE.
“Essential California: Just leave already, 2020, and let 2021 be”: I fill in for my colleague Julia Wick as she took vacation from her indispensable newsletter, to which you should subscribe. KEY QUOTE: “But just four days into 2021 … it’s kinda looking a lot like 2020.”
“Trump takes to meditating by the Pacific and other surefire 2021 California predictions”: My first columna of the year sees me transform into Gustradamus. KEY QUOTE: “I’m a lesser California prophet — more Fritz Coleman than Mike Davis — but if I get even a quarter of them right, I promise to leave my columnist position and spend the rest of my days playing baccarat on your dime at the Commerce Casino.”
“Trump saw himself as a strongman leader. He ended up a one-term president with a legacy of failure”: My second LA Times columna of the week finds Trump isn’t even that good of a caudillo. KEY QUOTE: “At the core of his chickpea-sized heart, Donnie’s weaker than a napkin trying to hold back the Potomac.”
You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc